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As we near the end of 2018 and look forward to 2019, Will Dunn – Director at Ampersand International provides a snapshot of recent trends across the Asia Pacific professional services market.
Recruitment activity in 2018 has been characterised by what has arguably been a long-overdue investment in digital technology and innovation, which is starting to transform the way in which firms communicate with clients and has definitely raised the bar across the sector.
Whilst it’s been the more innovative campaigns and initiatives that have stolen the headlines this year, there is still a demand for traditional marketing, communications and business development roles, which work hand-in-hand with technological reform. Hiring has remained relatively stable and consistent, with movements across all levels of seniority, although predominately at the mid-level, but we have also seen new positions emerge in technology, innovation, change management, risk & compliance, as well as project & process management. These positions are bringing new talent and skills into professional services, which is not only changing the business model but also the way in which firms are doing business.
There remains a demand for the Marketing & BD functions to demonstrate how their activities are contributing to the bottom line, whether it’s through the more direct routes such as tenders, client relationship management (CRM) and strategic pursuits or those which are further removed, including marketing insights and analytics teams and even the Corporate Affairs function. Firms are closely monitoring detailed KPIs so as to evaluate the value added by the respective functions.
Marketing is developing beyond the production of creative brochures and thought leadership events. Investment in marketing automation platforms such as Marketo, Eloqua and Pardot is being more widely adopted, giving marketing teams access to the necessary information required to undertake lead generation and data driven digital strategies, which deliver revenue directly attributable to the BD & Marketing function.
With support from the business development, marketing and communications functions, examples of investment in technology and innovation within the professional services sector are starting to become plentiful and there seems to be a genuine appetite for firms to explore dynamic ways in which they can get the most value from their insights. For instance, Aurecon has made a significant investment in augmented and virtual reality, which is having a big impact on how their major infrastructure and built environment projects are being communicated and will most certainly be a game changer for engineering and architecture firms in the future.
At the start of the year, Hall & Wilcox announced that it had entered into a partnership with leading fintech innovation hub, Stone & Chalk, to support its ‘Smarter Law’ approach to become the firm of choice for the country’s start-up community. Hall & Wilcox has already been supporting start-ups with its “frank” service, which promises forthright advice, resources and connections, whilst being flexible on pricing and having a focus on long term partnerships. In a similar vein, Corrs is leveraging their partnership with Melbourne University’s Melbourne Accelerator Program, which gives start-ups going through the accelerator, access to legal advice and new technologies, such as an online platform which delivers customised legal documents quickly and efficiently. Corrs’ investment in technology didn’t stop there though. They also went one step further and developed an e-discovery and forensic technology start-up called Telesto, aimed at in house lawyers, which utilises Amazon Web Service’s cloud computing to speed up the e-discovery process.
Fuse by Allen & Overy, is a collaborative tech innovation space, set up to develop legal technology solutions in three areas; legaltech – helps lawyers deliver their services in smarter ways; regtech – allows business to better comply with law and regulation and; dealtech –develops new ways for businesses to transact with each other. The idea behind it being that A&O can match a technology and a provider to a specific challenge being faced by their clients. Inside Deloitte’s Greenhouse Labs, they offer an immersive experience, designed to change the way clients solve business challenges. Taking participants outside of their everyday environments and exposing them to a combination of strategy, design thinking and behavioural science, the ‘labs’ seek to produce an ‘ah-ha’ moment, spurring creativity, new ideas and disrupting conventional thinking. The result? Tangible solutions to a specific challenge. In a similar initiative, EY has continued its rollout of Wavespace, a global network of growth and innovation centres which are designed to help clients achieve breakthroughs in business transformation. The platforms seek to combine EY’s experience in areas such as AI, blockchain, cyber security, customer experience and robotics to focus on disruptive growth strategies and technologies impacting different industries.
This is merely a snapshot of the advancements in professional services as there have been too many to discuss each of them. What is refreshing though is that from a more traditional business development perspective, there has also been a notable increase in firms willing to look at candidates ‘outside of the box’, who bring commercial awareness within a specific industry sector and are able to hit the ground running, despite no previous partnership experience. These candidates are bringing a fresh approach and new ideas to the table which firms are starting to value.
Legal and engineering firms are following suit with the Big 4, placing more responsibility on client relationship and account management positions – some even giving key account management responsibility at the Executive & Advisor levels. Drilling down into specific client relationships, rather than the sector as a whole, is giving firms a much better understanding of what is working or more importantly what is not working, for their clients and how they can improve their engagement and meet their demands.
A byproduct of this is that firms are addressing one of the biggest frustrations felt by professional services BD practitioners – a lack of client engagement and a feeling of being a valued member of the deal team.
Salaries have generally remained flat over the last couple of years, with CPI increases being the norm although in some cases, we have been aware of employees receiving no increases at all. With that said, there have been developments in the ability to earn bonuses in firms based on performance and adherence to corporate values. These can range from 5% – 15% in the legal sector and up to 40% (and sometimes more) in the accounting space. Arup leads the way from an engineering perspective, with its bi-annual profit share arrangement, benefitting all shared services employees.
Whilst some candidates will experience an increase in their salary when they move to another firm, the significance of that increase has diminished in recent years. Key factors that candidates now consider when assessing new opportunities is the cultural fit and flexible working arrangements. The 4 day week or 9 day fortnight has been a particularly common negotiation this year, as has the ability to work from home on a set day. Other considerations include the respect that the Marketing and BD function has at the firm’s leadership table as well as the opportunity to develop strategic initiatives to support the business. Monetary consideration, especially at the more senior level, is no longer the priority it once was.
We watch with much interest the functional trends both within Asia Pacific and globally. Our role is to map, engage and optimise top executive and emerging leadership talent within the professional services sector. We also offer functional advocacy, structural design and capability assessment, and cross-sectorial leadership advice to our client partners at C-Suite and Director level.
Please contact Will directly on +61 457 885 505 or firstname.lastname@example.org